[REVIEW] Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are by Robert Plomin @AllenLaneBooks

*I would like to say to the readers of this review [and future readers of the book] that I am neither a professional in the field of genetics nor have superb knowledge in it – I am merely an individual who’s interested in finding out more about this field and in the following sentences I discuss and express my personal thoughts on it as well as my experience with the book.

I’m the kind of person who enjoys learning new things and who’s especially interested in the field of psychology, biology and genetics. I love finding out new things because I feel like I didn’t pay enough attention when it came to these topics and want to educate myself more. Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are by Robert Plomin looked very interesting and appealing to me and I was lucky enough to land an advance reading copy of it.

Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are is a book by a behavioural geneticist Robert Plomin, who in this book does his best to introduce the reader to the field of genetics and the new advances in the field. Blueprint consists of two parts: WHY DNA MATTERS and THE DNA REVOLUTION. In the first part of the book the author talks about many theories on things like nature vs nurture, equal opportunity and meritocracy and more. Plomin also showcases some of his longitudinal studies of twins and adopted children and telling the reader his findings. What I adored when it came to the first part of the book was the information about certain traits e.g. eye colour and what percentage of them are heritable. I also appreciated Plomin’s look at nature vs nurture and his efforts in explaining what they are (which I’m sure readers who are not familiar with it will appreciate). The second part of the book introduces the reader to Genetics 101 where Plomin does his best to explain key things that are important in order to understand the rest of the book. After the introduction to Genetics we have certain techniques that are used in the field for determining certain aspects of an individuals life which are fascinating.

Now, I have to say that what I didn’t like that much was how most of the book was statistical and although Plomin provides explanation to certain things I didn’t find them as helpful. While reading the book I was thankful for my Statistics 101 class I took at the beginning of this year which made me familiar with correlation, multivariate analysis, standard residuals etc. I wouldn’t classify this book necessarily as popular science because it sort of requests certain before-hand knowledge. As I mentioned, the author is an expert in the field of behavioural genetics and presents many of his studies and findings. He proposes certain theories like e.g. looking at mental disorders from a spectrum/dimension rather than looking at someone as a person with a specified disorder.

In Blueprint, the author uses statistical data when showcasing certain findings and explaining theories which might confuse individuals who don’t have some basic knowledge on statistics. Plomin repeats himself at times in the book perhaps because of the fear of the reader forgetting certain things. There are many things discussed in this book that are very fascinating like using genetics to determine a person’s proneness to a certain disease, looking at genes to find out if the person will have some kind of a disorder in the future and more. At the end of the book you will find a section called Notes which provides further information for individuals who want to know more about his studies, certain things he didn’t go further into explaining etc. The chapters in Blueprint aren’t long but they will demand focus because you’ll better understand the material Plomin presents – saying that I’m not saying I’m an expert in this field after reading the book because of course there are things I missed and didn’t quite understand but I appreciated seeing how research in this field works and how both genetics and psychology interact with each other.

In conclusion, Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are reads more like a thesis rather than a non-fiction popular science book but I’m sure this won’t discourage people who either are interested in this subject or work in a similar or the same field to pick up a copy and find out more about the fascinating field called genetics.

I would like to thank the publisher Allen Lane Books for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

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Robert J. Plomin (born 1948 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American psychologist best known for his work in twin studies and behavior genetics.
Plomin earned a B.A. in psychology from DePaul University in 1970 and a Ph.D. in psychology in 1974 from the University of Texas, Austin under personality psychologist Arnold Buss. He then worked at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. From 1986 until 1994 he worked at Pennsylvania State University, studying elderly twins reared apart and twins reared together to study aging and is currently at the Institute of Psychiatry (King’s College London). He has been president of the Behavior Genetics Association, which in 2002 awarded him the Dobzhansky Memorial Award for a Lifetime of Outstanding Scholarship in Behavior Genetics. He was awarded the William James Fellow Award by the Association for Psychological Science in 2004 and the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Society for Intelligence Research. Plomin was ranked among the 100 most eminent psychologists in the history of science (in Review of General Psychology, 2002).

Find him on: Goodreads and Twitter.